By Waldo1947 | OSJ Staff Writer
The dozens of people (mostly my family and friends who feel obligated) who have read my articles on the Habs have noticed a pessimistic theme to my writings. I have lamented that Claude Julien is no good for young players as he doesn’t trust them enough and, therefore, ruins their confidence. I have also been critical of the team Marc Bergevin has assembled. I still think they have two 2nd-lines and two 4th-lines with a slow defence and too much reliance (and money) on Carey Price. All that said, they are 11-5-4 and looking good in the Atlantic. How is this possible?
Smoke and Mirrors
They are 15th overall on the power play (smoke), which is nothing to write home about, but a marked improvement from last season (mirror). The Habs are 30th on the Penalty Kill (smoke) which is absolutely embarrassing but they are 7th best (mirror) averaging less than 3 minor penalties/game. They do have 5 bench minors already (smoke) but Kirk Muller’s hair combined with Dominique Ducharme’s amazing suits (mirror) make them more palatable. They are 18th overall in GAA at 3.05 (smoke) but 6th in goals for with 3.50 (mirror). Claude Julien is obviously pushing all of the right buttons and getting the most out of the players he has. I remain pessimistic mostly because of the atrocity that is the PK. Can they really remain in contention with the PK being this bad? Speaking of PK…
Gutsy Trades and Quiet Acquisitions
The PK Subban - Shea Weber trade is still the most controversial transaction of Marc Bergevin's tenure. I will never forget sitting at work when my buddies, Butsy and Barnsey told me the shocking news. As 3 huge Habs fans, we were shocked and upset. How could they get rid of such a dynamic player? He is a legend in the city, exciting on the ice and he gave $10 million to the Children’s Hospital! Sure we heard rumours that he is not well-liked in the room, but those guys are just jealous of the star power. Now that PK is on his second team in 2 years, our tune has changed dramatically.
Then a year later we went through it with the Drouin for Sergachev deal. Sergachev is a blue-chipper; it's the Ryan McDonough - Scott Gomez deal all over again! Now Butsy, Barnsy and myself are once again eating a bit of crow as Drouin looks pretty solid this year and Sergachev is not lighting it up in Tampa. Then the Max Pacioretty trade really pissed us off. Once again, Butsy, Barnsy and myself were unhappy. Thomas Tatar (healthy scratch in the playoffs) and Nick Suzuki (small and a prospect) is all we got? Once again a little more crow-pie for dessert. Tatar is at a point-per-game and Suzuki is on pace for 20 goals. How about Galchenyuk for Domi? Looks like a steal now.
The acquisition of Jeff Petry from the Oilers for a 2nd and a 5th? No wonder the Oilers were so bad with deals like that. How about getting Joel Armia for Simon Bourque? Bourque now plays for a team owned by a mining company in Northern Quebec (I’m surprised hockeydb even found him!). Brett Kulak for 2 guys who have never played in the NHL. Jordan Weal is showing promise. Bergevin got him for Michael Chaput and some Tim Horton gift cards. Cale Fleury and Victor Mete were 3rd and 4th rounders respectively. He got Nate Thompson for a 4th and snatched Paul Byron off of waivers.
Watching the Habs so far this year has made one thing very clear - the players really like each other. Look at the footage of Victor Mete scoring his first NHL goal. Shea Weber, who is so serious and scary all of the time, is absolutely thrilled for the kid. He is hugging him hard and smiling, like most of the guys in the pile. Imagine the thrill for Mete. He must be thinking, “Wow. Uncle Shea must really like me!” Uncle Shea got to do it again last night when Cale Fleury scored his first in the NHL. Look at the genuine excitement from the mob in the corner. Brendan Gallagher could not pick up the puck fast enough. These guys really seem to love playing hockey and for each other.
I have been very critical of Julien and Bergevin thus far and I still have my doubts. That said, Bergevin always preaches that character matters. He has assembled a group of hardworking men all pulling in the same direction. Julien has them playing well above their individual talents. To be 11-5-4 at this point can no longer be considered a fluke. If I am going to lay blame at the coach and GM when things are bad, they deserve some accolades when things are humming.
When the Cubs finally broke the 100+ year curse of the World Series, I remember a sportscaster who said, “Half of Chicago is happy beyond belief. The other half of Chicago is angry because now they have nothing to complain about!”
At 11-5-4, what are 3 BFFs like Butsy, Barnsy and myself to complain about as Habs fans?